I love that Del and Barb have ordinary jobs -- he's an insurance salesperson, she's a teacher. I love that they love one another, but have lost sight of that in the demands of an ordinary life. I love how they want to find their way back.
And I love that their kids aren't perfect. You know how some people (mainly on Facebook) get perfect kids? Yeah, I didn't get those and neither did my characters. This was my first marriage-in-jeopardy book, and I adore it.
I really like Del and Tick's interactions as brothers, too.
Here's the blurb and excerpt:
Reunited by their teenage son’s possible involvement in a murder . . . their new needs and old passions are destined to explode.
His Ordinary Life by Linda Winfree
Book Two of the Hearts of the South series.
Del Calvert has spent his life in quiet desperation, trying to meet everyone’s expectations and feeling like he never quite measured up. From his teens, Barb was everything he wanted and needed, but knowing he wasn’t enough for her drove him out of the marriage.
Barbara Calvert is afraid to need anyone—especially the soon-to-be-ex husband she still loves. She’s reluctant to fall under his seductive spell of love and security once more.
But when their son’s secrets threaten his life, everything changes. Del must help his son as unseen and threatening forces move ever closer, putting the entire family at risk. And along the way, he hopes to convince Barbara to give him one more chance to win back the wonderful, ordinary life he didn’t appreciate until it was gone.
Tick stepped into the patch of light spilling from the open door. Good Lord. Del stared. His brother looked awful. His investigator’s uniform of khakis and a dark green golf shirt hung on a lean frame missing pounds it couldn’t spare. He needed a haircut, black hair falling on his forehead, red-rimmed eyes sunken in his gaunt face.
“Sweet Jesus, brother, what happened to you?”
Tick rolled his eyes heavenward. “I’ve been busy. We’re rebuilding this department from the ground up, remember?”
Yeah, but this decline seemed to have more to do with intense misery than overwork. Maybe Tori was right. Maybe he was on the rebound for real.
Del wondered if he carried around that haunted look as well. Shaking off the thought, he tilted his chin toward the house. “Is he here?”
Tick’s mouth tightened. “No. I pulled in some favors. I’ve got a pair of our off-duty guys actively looking for him.”
A cold fear tiptoed down Del’s back. Chandler County wasn’t that big. Where was he?
“What the hell are you driving?” Tick rested an arm on the porch post.
Del glanced at the Porsche. It really wasn’t him, but he hadn’t had much of a choice except to drive it, since his fifteen-year-old Cherokee had finally kicked the bucket. “Bought it at a bank auction. It needed some engine work and a paint job, figured I’d flip it for a profit. Just picked it up from the body shop yesterday.”
“Wondered if your new single status had gone to your head.” Tick jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Barbara’s fixing breakfast. I guess she needs something to do. Come on in.”
His older brother inviting him into his own damn house didn’t sit well. At all. Angry resentment crowded out his earlier concern. Glaring at the back of Tick’s head, he followed.
Inside, the scents swamped him—a heady blend of roses, a lighter citrus aroma, and the delight of fresh coffee and French toast hanging in the air. Home. The sensation wrapped around him, driving out the painful loneliness for a moment. He filled his lungs, wanting to experience as much of this luxury as possible. Funny how the things he missed the most were the ones he’d never paid attention to when he had them every day.
Barbara stood in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. He looked at her, the lungs which had been so eager earlier now refusing to work. Wearing loose khaki capris and a coral linen top, her short champagne blonde hair framing her face, she appeared calm and capable. However, the light makeup she wore didn’t quite disguise the evidence of recent tears.
He was staring. Shaking his head, he found his voice. “Hey.”
Dazzling. The mother of his children, the woman he’d shared all but three months of his adult years with, the woman he couldn’t get out of his dreams, and all he could manage was a typical Southern monosyllable. He’d done better than that as a tongue-tied teenage boy who’d failed a semester of senior English.
Somehow, he doubted his brother, Mr. Valedictorian, Mr. FBI Award, ever had the same problem. Del hooked his thumbs in his pockets and looked at Barbara again. The corner of his mouth hitched up in a crooked grin. “Something smells good.”
No answering smile curved Barbara’s full lips. “Are you hungry?”
Small talk when they didn’t know where in the hell their son was, what he was doing. Del shook his head. “Not really.”
“The girls will be up in a little while. I thought I’d have their breakfast ready.” Her voice cracked, and a tiny tremor shook her bottom lip. “How about some coffee?”
“Now that sounds great.”
She looked past him and smiled, a short-lived, tense expression. “Tick?”
“Please. Tell you what. You sit, I’ll pour.” Soft concern lingered in Tick’s voice, and he rubbed her shoulder as he passed into the kitchen. The acid of jealousy blistered Del’s throat. “Mugs still over the stove?”
“Yes.” Moving into the room, Barbara picked up a fringed pillow from the floor. She fluffed it and dropped it on the corner of the camel-colored couch before she straightened the throw lying across the back of the leather armchair.
Del had a flash of her in the waiting room during Lyssa’s surgery to have tubes placed in her ears. She’d straightened everything possible—chairs, magazines, fake plants. The constant movement had driven him crazy, and finally, he’d pulled her down beside him and rubbed at her shoulders, whispering reassurances all the while.
He took an instinctive step toward her and stopped. He cleared his throat. “I’m sure he’s okay.”
Blue eyes narrowed, brows lowered, she looked at him over her shoulder. “You always think everything’s going to be okay.”
They’ll be okay. You worry too much. His irritated words when she’d fretted over telling the children about his plans to move out. He’d been wrong. They’d been far from okay—Lyssa crying, Anna withdrawing, Blake…Blake and his anger.
He’d left them anyway, put his own wants above what was best for his family. How did a guy make up for that?
“We’ll make it okay.” He tucked his thumbs in his pockets. “We’ll figure something out.”
She shook her head and glared, hands on her hips. She opened her mouth, closed it, lips pursed, then opened it again.
The back door creaked open. Del turned, his gaze meeting his son’s blazing eyes. Blake stared at him a second, spun and walked out of the house. The door slammed behind him.
“Go ahead, Del.” Barbara’s voice was cold. “Find a way to make this okay.”